Just as I was getting comfortable on my stool, the bar closed: This is my last post as The Chaser. I’m moving down South this weekend—following Mr. Chaser to graduate school—and will be, with a mixture of sadness and excitement, trading the Matchbox’s Manhattans (ah, bourbon-soaked cherries!) for something likely involving sweet-tea vodka. I leave you with a list of the bars I’ll be pining for and, I hope, finding excuses to visit on occasion (maybe I’ll finally raise a glass at one of my hotel-bar haunts as an actual hotel guest). In the meantime, if you find yourself at Smallbar, drink an Allagash for me.
Aria: The hotel bar that launched my love affair with hotel bars, Aria might not have the killer rooftop views of some newer spots, but it gets all of the other ingredients right: stiff drinks, good people-watching, free mixed nuts. Bonus: Sushi is available, for when nuts don’t suffice.
Tiny Lounge: Of all of the bars I’ve visited under the auspices of Chicago magazine,this is my favorite of the lot. The cocktails are fantastic; the space is intimate; and the service is bar-none. Bonus: The rosemary-spiked almonds just might be the world’s best bar snack.
Quenchers: This excellent beer bar gets lost somewhere between Hopleaf and Map Room, and that’s a shame. The arranged-by-country-of-origin menu has plenty of standouts; I usually opt for the St. Peter’s Cream Stout, from the UK. Bonus: Serve-yourself popcorn.
404 Wine Bar: Chicago has plenty of cozy wine bars, but there’s no better winter date than claiming two of this spot’s big leather armchairs and sharing a cheese plate by the fire. Bonus: Oenophiles-in-training can matriculate from the fratastic Jack’s Bar & Grill next door.
Friar Tuck: What’s quirkier than entering a bar through a barrel-shape façade? This bizarre-o but wonderful dive gets rowdy with karaoke, fun-hat Fridays (you have to see it to believe it), and $5 mini pitchers. Bonus: More serve-yourself popcorn, a trend I’m hoping extends south of Chicago.
Violet Hour: The buzz began in 2007, and it’s still going strong—for good reason. This swank-but-not-snobby lounge is still the place I bring out-of-towners and missed-the-boat locals, and they always leave wowed. Bonus: Those unforgettable cocktails!
Smallbar: I can’t sign off without slipping in a mention of this old standby. I’ve said it again and again, but I love this neighborhood bar’s ability to maintain a truly welcoming atmosphere, even as its beer list gets more and more attention. Bonus: The patio feels just like home—only more sociable; $4 Allagash pints on Mondays.
Editor’s note: We raise a toast to Kate in thanks. May all of her cherries be bourbon-soaked. We’ll be announcing her replacement soon; stay tuned to chicagomag.com for updates. In the meantime, keep tabs on what’s new in nightlife with Seen on the Scene. Next up, on Monday: Lux Lounge.